Questions and Answers with the KJV Onlyists

kjv1611Introduction

Back in May 2014, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Andy Olson for his monthly Echo Zoe podcast on the subject of King James Onlyism. See HERE to get the interview for the specific program.

When Andy posted the podcast to his site, within hours, the comment box exploded with KJVO challengers wanting to take me to task for my views. I think he told me there were more comments in response to my interview than all the comments to all 50 plus podcasts he had done combined. I tried to respond to a number of them, but they were cross-posted with Facebook and their comment interface made it near impossible to follow all the comment threads so that I wasn’t sure who it was I was answering.  Out of annoyance, I eventually gave up.

One commenter, however, came here to my blog and wondered why I hadn’t answered the questions that particular individual presented to me. When I explained the irritation I had with the commenting format and that I hadn’t even seen that person’s questions, it was suggested I was offering a convenient excuse to dodge answering them. I stated that if those same questions were posted under my link to the original interview, I would answer them.  The person posted them and so here we are.  Rather than leaving my answers in the combox, I thought I would make a post out of it.

Now I don’t expect my answers to be at all persuasive for my KJVO antagonist; in fact, I expect the KJVO apologists to offer their “defeater” rebuttals. However, I know there are more sober-minded individuals who will encounter KJV onlyists in their churches, Bible study fellowships, and workplaces who may be challenged with the exact same questions, so for them I offer my responses.

Fred says it’s a myth that “heretics, corrupted men and ungodly people” came in and introduced error and theological heresy. However God warns us that this will happen in passages like Jude 4 and 2 Peter 2:1. Why is it hard to believe and why would a Biblically literate person say it’s a “myth”?

The question is a strawman, because I never said heretics or ungodly men never introduced theological error. If you listen carefully to what I did say, I said heretics and ungodly men never intentionally corrupted the biblical manuscripts.

kjvtranslatorsThe key, fundamental talking point in KJVO apologetics is that heretical men produced corrupted texts that are identified as the Alexandrian manuscripts. Over time, true, Bible-believing Christians recognized that intentional corruption and laid them aside and never copied them. Hence the reason why the so-called Alexandrian manuscripts are so few and the Byzantine manuscripts, the family of manuscripts from which the KJV is ultimately derived, are so many. The Alexandrian manuscripts may be “the oldest,” say the KJVO apologists, but that doesn’t mean they are “the best.”

Heretics were active within the first century during the establishment of the NT church. The whole Judaizer issue was one of confronting and answering gross error regarding the Gospel (Acts 15, Galatians 1-2).  The apostle John wrote his first epistle in order to answer the error that claimed Jesus was never physical flesh. Neither group were ever accused of changing the written manuscripts of the Word of God. They were accused of perverting the teaching from the Word of God. See the difference?

So while it is true that heretics were (and still are) active in introducing theological heresy, they didn’t change or alter physical manuscripts in order to spread their heresy. They twisted the interpretation of the biblical text to teach their heresy. Consider for example Arius, who taught that Jesus wasn’t divine and was a created being. He and his followers didn’t change manuscripts to promote that heresy, but reinterpreted the Bible based upon fallacious exegesis in order to teach the heresy. That has always been the standard operation by heretics.

Fred later says there was “no heretical cabal” that attempted to corrupt the Bible. However, based on what we see very early on, as recorded in Genesis 3, why is it so hard to believe that Satan would attack the Word of God? The very first words we see from Satan are an attack on God’s Word! 

The same response applies here. Satan didn’t physically alter a manuscript. He reinterpreted what God said. I am certainly not saying Satan never attacks the Word of God, but it is the manner in which he attacks it. Typically it is through reinterpretation and the promotion of twisted doctrine that is developed from passages taken out of context. For example gay “Christians” who want to reinterpret the Bible to be affirming of homosexual behavior rather than condemning it. Never has a secret group of heretics gathered manuscripts, changed a word here or a phrase there that somehow takes away from essential Christian doctrine, and then tried to introduce their changes to the Christian community.

Fred says the best way to bring someone else out of King James “onlyism” is to prove to them that there was “no conspiracy” to change the Bible. How can one “prove” that?

Quite simply by studying the true and accurate history of the transmission of the biblical text. KJVO apologists would do themselves a grand favor by visiting Michael Kruger’s website Canon Fodder and reading his articles on how the NT canon was established. Better yet would be to purchase his book The Canon Revisited in which he goes into great detail explaining how early Christians recognized and affirmed the NT canon and transmitted the NT documents.

What KJVO apologists do not seem to realize is that their conspiracy theory of how we got our Bible that involves heretical men slightly corrupting physical manuscripts so as to introduce heresy is a variation on Walter Bauer’s thesis that there were competing doctrines among the early Christians that gave rise to a diversity of Christian “orthodoxies” and even NT textual “traditions.”

Fred says that the critical text is actually made up of the majority texts and NOT the Textus Receptus. However, the critical text wasn’t created until the “discovery” of Sinaiticus. The critical text was created from two manuscripts, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Is that a majority?

I took the time to listen again to the interview and I have no idea where this comment is coming from because I said no such thing. It’d be helpful if an exact quote was provided. The commenter may be confusing the fact that the TR, the base text used for the translation of the KJV, was put together from just a few number of manuscripts, some say as many at 10 or so. As I will note in my next response, Christian scholars began working on “critical” texts of the NT long before Sinaiticus was discovered.

Where were the “textual scholars” before the discovery of Sinaiticus?

Yes. Many of them.

– Jerome, who compared Latin manuscripts to produce the Latin Vulgate. He wrote about his challenges in his selected letters and works.

– Origen (but of course, KJVO apologists dismiss him as a crazy heretic).

– Cardinal Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros who edited a polyglot Bible in 1514.

– Desiderius Erasmus who edited the TR, and what became the base text for a number of English translations including the KJV. His Greek text, by the way, challenged the Latin Vulgate, which everyone claimed was without error (in the same fashion as KJVO apologists claim about the KJV today).

– Theodore de Beze who published 9 editions of the Greek NT.

– Brian Walton, Bishop of Chester, published his Greek text in 1657.

– John Fell who published his text in 1675.

– John Mill’s edition of 1707 that included 78 new manuscripts never published before.

– Edward Wells who prepared a Greek NT between 1709 and 1719 that departed from the TR in a number of readings.

– Richard Bentley who began work publishing a Greek and Latin text restored to their original condition in the 4th century, but died before the work could be completed.

– Johann Bengel who did a thorough cataloging of all 3000 variants in the NT and concluded that none of them did anything to shake evangelical doctrine. Bengel was the first to classify the importance of marginal readings and recognized the need to divide manuscripts into “families” depending upon the regions where they circulated in the ancient world.

There are a few other key individuals, but all of those men I listed did their work long before Tischendorf discovered the Sinaiticus. Or, if we want to believe Chris Pinto’s conspiracy, before Simonides was even born.

Fred believes the KJV translators “used manuscripts that came 900 years after the few that came 200 years after the apostles wrote.” How old are the manuscripts that make up the critical text, such as Sinaiticus? Have these manuscripts been scientifically tested and where can one obtain those results?

kjvscholarsKJVO apologists have an aversion to any Christian scholarship except their own. If the scholarship doesn’t affirm their KJVO apologetics, it is of the devil, or from the “Alexandrian cult,” or whatever. It is at this point where conspiracy theories are born.

But with their suspicion of textual criticism, KJVO advocates sound almost exactly like the people who become ex-fundy, anti-homeschool cranks who make lame Youtube videos explaining how the Bible is a corrupted book.  We know how old the biblical NT manuscripts are in the same way we know how old any manuscript of antiquity is: by identifying specific stylistic characteristics in the handwriting.

But that hatred of scholarship cuts both ways. How do KJVO advocates know for example that Erasmus choose the right manuscripts? He only used a few, and that according to what he himself said. Honestly, how do we even know anything about early Christianity if scholarship is never to be trusted?

Fred says the KJV went through “many revisions”. What changed, in the KJV, through the process of those revisions?

kjvteenbibleA number of items including modernizing the spelling, updating archaic words, correcting grammar to reflect modern day usage, and correcting and changing whole verses.

Now I anticipate that KJVO apologists will claim that there was really no revision at all and that the only “revision” involved modernizing the spelling and updating the words. That is the assertion made in the publications of KJVO apologists like D.A. Waite for example.

However, anyone who takes time to truly examine the claim of “no true revision” will discover it to be completely false. Rick Norris, in his book, The Unbound Scriptures, catalogs hundreds of revisions that involve more than just updating the spelling and punctuation. Benjamin Blayney, who was the reviser of the 1769 edition of the KJV that is one of the standard KJV texts available today, wrote that he corrected many errors and made frequent recourse to the Hebrew and Greek originals.

What’s wrong with having a “high view” of God’s Word? The opposite of that would be a “low view”. Correct? Is that preferable?

I’m not sure where this question comes from, because I take a high view of God’s Word. I just don’t take a high view of the infallibility of the KJV translation.

I can find many Scriptures validating and verifying the purity and perfection of God’s Word. However, I cannot find a single Scripture that warns me of possible errors and inaccuracies or that any will be found in the future. Can you give me a Scripture like that?

Here’s another oddball question that doesn’t make sense.  So what if there is no single passage that warns me of possible error and inaccuracies in the Bible. How exactly does that affirm the KJVO view of how the Bible was transmitted down through history?

Fred talks a lot about “critical scholars”. When I look up words related to that, I find that “criticize” means “to pass judgment”. I also find that the word “critic” means “a person who judges merit”. How can one judge the “merit” of God’s Word?

I just sit back in my chair and rub my hands down my face. But for the sake of the person who genuinely wants an answer, no one is judging the “merit” of God’s Word. Textual critics judge the quality of the manuscript, not the message of the manuscript.

Fred also said “scholars have to determine” what the author “originally” wrote. And that “a good textual critic” determines the writing “may not be exactly what was originally intended or originally written”. How can we KNOW what was in the author’s mind? How can we KNOW their intentions? And, how can we KNOW their intentions were some other than what they put on paper??

I’ll just remind people that textual criticism evaluates physical manuscripts and has nothing to do with getting inside the head of the author to really know what he was thinking as if some hidden meaning exists. My commenter seem to be unable to differentiate between the two.

Fred said the job of critical text scholars is basically to make the text “sound good to the ear or to the person reading the text”. Wouldn’t that be merely scratching “itching ears”?

Uh… No. If someone takes the time to go back and listen once more to my interview, I said that many variants are caused by copyists attempting to harmonize parallel passages and smoothing out what appears to be difficult readings. The Bible was primarily read to congregations up and until the time of the Reformation when the printing press was invented.  Making the text to be easily read out loud was one of the primary duties of a good copyist. There is nothing nefarious about that.

Where does the job of the Holy Spirit to teach come into play?

Not sure what is being asked with this question. Does the person mean the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying believers by the Word of God or the Holy Spirit preserving the biblical autographs?

Fred says KJV “onlyists” believe people of other language need to learn 17th Century English. I say critical “scholars” believe people either need to learn Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic OR listen to, or read a book by, someone who does. That seems to be a very popish idea!

biblebabelYes, it is true that many KJVO apologists believe people need to learn English in order to read the Bible and in the case of the KJV, 17th century Elizabethan English. That is, for example, Sam Gipp’s view in his Answer Book.

As is typical with KJVO defenders, my challenger seems to be unaware of church history, because the “popish” response to new translations in English during the Reformation was one of hostility, claiming that only confusion and apostasy will come if people could read the Bible in their own language in an edition that is not the Latin Vulgate.

While it is certainly preferred that people take the time to learn the original languages (I would expect such from an person seeking to teach the Bible to others), it is not necessary, and providing an English translation that people in our time can read and understand is the only viable option. The true popish mindset is found among the KJVO folks who insist that any modern translation is corrupted and will lead to spiritual harm, which is the exact same position the Catholic church took during the Reformation.

When Fred was talking about what “brought him out of King James Onlyism”, he mentioned several men’s names, one woman’s name, his seminary teaching and his newfound (at the time) appreciation for Calvinism. If you were to ask me what “brought me out” of believing that eclectic textual criticism was the correct way to understand the Bible, I would tell you, “I read the Bible”. The Holy Spirit was my Teacher….not a man, woman, a course, or some “ism”.

In my case, the Holy Spirit, in God’s divine providence, used those several men, that one crazy woman, and the full understanding of biblical salvation to teach me. Those people and God’s Word were the means God used to deliver me from error.  So in other words, I read my Bible and the Holy Spirit was my Teacher.

Fred said Calvinists have a “high view of God”. I guess the assumption is that non-Calvinists have a low view of God. Would that be correct?

Yes.

Since Fred likes Calvinism and states that King James “onlyists” DON’T like Calvinism, how much of that belief, in itself, is responsible for Fred’s current view of the King James Bible?

Here my challenger conflates issues. I like the King James Bible. I even believe it was an important translation for the English people. I said as much at the end of the interview. What I don’t like, however, is being lied to about how we got our Bible, something that KJVO defenders regularly do, as well as being lied to about Calvinism. The doctrines of grace alone are not responsible for my views on KJV Onlyism. But my uncovering the fact that Gail Riplinger lied about Westcott and Hort.  KJVO defenders still lie about them, and they lie about historical Calvinists. So my current view is that I like the King James Bible, I don’t like King James Onlyism.

Regarding Westcott and Hort….I have researched their own writings and have information, from their very own words, which tie them to the occult. I will be happy to share links on accurate info regarding W&H with you. And Gail Riplinger didn’t even come across my radar while doing my research..

Really? I doubt that my commenter solely explored the writings of Westcott and Hort apart from the opinions of King James Onlyists. But I’ll bite. Share the links. I would love to take a look at them. References in their printed works would be deeply appreciated. But again, I bet those links have been filtered through the KJVO propaganda machine.

Fred believes we DO have “all the words of God”. Obviously, the King James Bible is not a good enough source for these words. So, where can I, a normal, non-seminarian, find a perfect, error-free, accurate source of God’s Words? Also, along those lines, if nothing has been lost, then where can I find it?

Contrary to the hyped hysteria of KJVO apologists, I certainly believe the King James Bible is an excellent source of God’s Word. I don’t believe, however, that God’s perfect Word is ONLY found in the King James Bible.

I would also add that there are more concise and accurately translated modern editions than what is found in the KJV in certain places. Do each of those modern translations have their own set of difficulties? Well, of course. They are translations from one language into another.

As much as KJVO apologists want to claim the KJV is the only perfect Bible and all other modern translations are really Bible “perversions” rather than “versions,” Christians can rest assured that they will have that exact same “Word” if they choose to read the ESV or the NASB or any conservative, modern translation of the Bible.

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66 thoughts on “Questions and Answers with the KJV Onlyists

  1. Hello, Darrell. I’ll do this in more than one post. First, you asked about the command for Christians to be careful with the text. We can start with Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, which Jewish Christians would certainly have applied to New Testament Scriptures as well. Proverbs 30:5-6 would be another instance, and stronger, because it refers to all the words of God. If they believed the NT Scriptures were God’s words, they would certainly take this as an injunction against changing them.

    In the NT, Rev. 22:18-19 specifically warns against modifying the text of Revelation, thus echoing the OT injunctions and ratifying them for NT Scripture.

    II Peter 3:16 is relevant. In the near context, apostolic writings are given equal authority with the OT prophets (3:2). 3:1-2 continues the thoughts of II Peter 1:15-21 (chapter 2 is a parenthetical contrast of false prophets to the holy prophets of 1:21). Peter says to accept apostolic writings as Scripture on a par with the OT, and in vs 16 warns against “wresting” the Scriptures. That implicitly suggests changing the words is wrong.

    Careful copying is also implicit in the words of Jesus that a jot or tittle will not pass from the Law, and that His words will stand forever. Believers should treat the OT text carefully, down to the jot and tittle, and implicitly should be careful with His words and the New Testament Scriptures as well. That is also suggested by John 6:63 and 68, where the message of life is described as being in the very words. It is arguably implicit in Romans 10, though there “word” is singular and thus could just mean “message” — but the plural in John 6 suggests verbal inspiration, and verbal inspiration necessarily implies a responsibility to be careful with the text. Similarly, I Corinthians 2:13 speaks of the “words” the Spirit teaches.

    Any serious believer will recognise that care with the very words of Scripture is vital, and such has always been the case.

    We also know that awareness of scribal accuracy was present among early church leaders. Irenaeus had that famous passage where he challenged anyone who copied his own book to carefully check their work and correct any mistakes. Surely, if he saw the importance of careful copying for his own book, he would see its importance for Scripture.

    And there really is a significant difference between the carelessness of extant early mss and most mss after the 4th/5th century. I’m not making this up, many textual scholars have said the same.

    Finally (for this reply), I’ve never disputed that most major variants were very early. That does not in the least prove that all or most early scribes were careless. It just proves that some of them were — but we already knew that from the mss we have.

  2. And now, returning to my five differences:

    1. We differ on the uniqueness of the transmission of the Bible.

    I said:
    “A) You believe the textual transmission of the Bible is essentially the same as the textual transmission of other books. Copying of manuscripts and the way they are evaluated is little different from any other book. Sure, there are some variations, but the same general principles apply. Is that a fair representation?”

    You add that the Scriptures are God-inspired, and thus different from every other book. But as near as I can tell, the rest of your statement reiterated what I said — there is little to no substantive difference in the copying of the mss and the way the mss are evaluated.

    I said:
    “B) Where I differ: I believe the textual transmission of the Bible is drastically different. It was copied in different circumstances by different people for different reasons, compared to other books. It’s geographical distribution was early and immense, and it was copied more than any ancient text, by far. It was mostly, especially in early days, copied by people who believed it was the very words of God, and this influenced its copying. Its manuscripts were owned by different people and stored in different places, and likely to be used on a daily or at least very regular basis, unlike most other books. They were much more likely to perish unless something unusual took place. Because of all these differences, one has to consider that the “rules” for evaluating mss would likely be far different for Scripture.”

    You say there is a lot of speculation in that statement. (You also mystify me as to how a demonstration with a non-Biblical text proves anything about my assertion that the transmission of Scripture is different. It may prove that text-critical principles work fairly well with non-Biblical texts. I’ve never disputed that.)

    2. We differ on the quality of the work of early scribes.

    I said:
    “A) You believe many (most?) early copyists were particularly sloppy, and that this sloppiness continued with later copyists as well. You believe there is no evidence to the contrary. You believe the extant early mss are generally representative of early mss. Is that right?”

    You made no statement in response, so I trust that is a fair characterization of what you believe.

    I said:
    “B) Where I differ: I believe most early copyists were strongly motivated, by the command of God (Deut 4:2) and other reasons, to be very accurate. I believe, given the nature of the persecution they faced, that they were unlikely to be sloppy about something God commanded. I believe they saw these books as Scripture, and that early Christian writings (even Scripture) bear out both that acceptance and an awareness of the importance of textual integrity. I believe the obvious Jewish attitude towards textual integrity was reflected in the early church, which had strong Jewish influence. Thus, I believe the extant early mss (which are, indeed, sloppy) must not be generally representative, and that they have survived for reasons unknown, but perhaps because of reasons related to their sloppiness.”

    You said that Deut. 4:2 is not an injunction for NT copyists, and that they might have felt pious. (I think this is very weak on your part, BTW. On several levels.) You think it is an open question whether many / most believers wanted a perfect copy. (For yourself, you want the best text and translation possible. Seems odd to me that you think they might not have cared. But maybe that’s just me.)

    3. We differ on “best.”

    I said:
    “A) You believe the sloppiness of a scribe’s work has no bearing on whether modern textual scholars consider it one of the best manuscripts. Other factors such as age, brevity, etc, are determinative for whether it is considered “best.””

    You said, “The reason a modern linguistic scholar might find a sloppily done manuscript as one of the ‘best’ is related to multiple considerations,” and elaborated on that. I can’t really see any substantive difference between what I said and your addition, other than more detail. So I think I’ve got the essence of your position.

    I fixed a grammatical error in this paragraph :), but in essence I said:
    “B) I agree that this is the way textual scholars define “best.” Where I differ: I believe a sloppy mss calls into questions whether other not-obviously-error variants were also just errors. It also raises the question whether the exemplar was of decent quality, since the scribe who is sloppy is also likely to be careless in choosing an exemplar. It also raises the question of the environment in which it was copied, and whether the integrity of the Scriptures was valued there. In other words, it renders the entire mss suspect. Furthermore, I believe that the use of “best” in popular writing is confusing if not disingenuous, because most people think it means “accurately copied”.”

    You ask how we can know whether a scribe knew he was being sloppy, or if he just had an unfortunate exemplar. Fair point. But it takes no particular skill to know something is wrong when you have 200 nonsense readings in the Gospel of John (p66).

    4. We differ on the relevance of the attesting work of the Spirit.

    I said:
    “A) You believe that the work of the Spirit attesting to the Word is irrelevant to the question of the text. I’m not even 100% sure whether you accept that this is a work of the Spirit, but I think you do. You believe that to consider this in questions of the text is to put trust in men. Is that an accurate representation of your view?”

    In brief, you elaborated to say that the work of the Spirit is illumination, not attestation. (Part of your response shows we’re still talking past each other — I don’t suggest that we can “appeal to what someone in church history said a reading should be, and then believe it because we assume the Spirit was attesting it to him.” See my second sentence immediately below.)

    I said:
    “B) I believe it is very relevant. It cannot be relied upon with one particular person or manuscript, but as an aspect of God’s providential preservation of the true text, we should doubt any reading which has never, as far as we know, had wide acceptance among God’s people. I believe this is EXACTLY paralleled in the work of the Spirit in attesting the canon. If it is theologically sound to accept the attesting work of the Spirit to the canon, it is not aberrant to suggest it applies to questions of the text. On trusting in men, I believe (though you don’t recognise it) that your trust is in men — in the copyists, the people who stored the mss, the scholars who formulated the theories by which you evaluate mss, the scholars who apply those theories and make (often subjective) decisions as to which reading will be used in newly translated Bibles.”

    You disagree. Again, talking past each other, you ask, “Which people where” when I said we should doubt any reading which has NEVER, as far as we know, had wide acceptance. (It is ludicrous to decide, as the UBS committee did on Mt 8:18, that a reading which is only in B and some Coptic mss is truly Scripture. There is no evidence that reading has ever had wide acceptance anywhere. It is not Scripture.) You also completely passed over the attesting work of the Spirit to the canon. One wonders, if you reject this attesting work, how you know we have the right canon….

    5. We differ on whether the Scriptures tell us anything about how to approach the mss question.

    I said:
    “A) You believe that the Scriptures are sufficient, but you believe there is no Scripture at all to give any guidance in helping us know what actually is Scripture. You rely on established principles of textual criticism to evaluate manuscript readings. Pretty sure that’s a fair representation, but please clarify if not.”

    You elaborate: “There is no Scripture that gives specific instructions for the steps to take while copying a manuscripts. No specific instructions on how to evaluate variations in previously copied texts. The theological fact that the Scriptures are sufficent only illustrates that God did not deem it necessary to provide such specific instructions.” (I would note the specific instruction not to add or remove words, but other than that, I agree as to specific instructions.)

    I said (please note there is a difference between “specific instructions” and “shed light”):
    “B) I believe Scripture does shed light on how we should view the manuscript testimony. It does not say we should simply accept the work of Erasmus, but the modern theories are problematic with what it does say. Furthermore, those theories cannot be tested as to their accuracy, because we don’t have an original autograph to compare with their conclusions. They are human ideas with no divine sanction nor any way to be empirically tested. If there is no Scriptural sanction for modern textual criticism, it is effectually a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture. If there is Scriptural sanction for what they do, its defenders have failed to study the matter and present that Scripture, which is also effectually a denial of sufficiency.”

    You argue that nothing I say can be tested any more than your theories. I agree. Where we disagree is whether Scripture has anything to say on this issue. I don’t have to test Scripture, if it speaks to this. I just have to appeal to Scripture.

    I appeal to the Scriptures and say the attesting work of the Spirit is relevant. You deny it. I appeal to the Scriptures and say the prohibition against adding or removing words makes any rule about brevity suspect. The Scripture warns equally against either error, so both errors should be considered dangerous. I appeal to the Scriptures that the doctrines of the perspecuity and the unity of the Scriptures call into question the rule that says the most difficult reading is preferred. I appeal to the Scriptures which say they are spiritually-discerned and say that any approach which uses the often-subjective judgments of unregenerate scholars to determine the true text of Scripture has to have something wrong.

    Finally, I bring out your own words: “We study, we analyze data, we engage in peer review, we make new discoveries, we expend every effort to ensure the church has a text as close the originals as possible.” This is a great representation of what textual scholars say about their work, and I commend you for it. But it is entirely contrary to the entire tone of Scripture which says, “We have a more sure word of prophecy.” The textual critic produces a work of uncertainty about the text. The Bible describes a text of absolute certainty, it never says anything that suggests there will be this kind of uncertainty. And so the Scriptures themselves indicate that there is something amiss. They may not give as explicit a way to approach the mss question as we would like, but they certainly indicate something wrong with the typical approach of textual scholars today.

  3. Part three, and concluding:
    I think the differences are pretty clear, and we’ve been more focused on that than on the similarities. That’s appropriate in this discussion. I do appreciate your clear affirmation of inspiration. I do suspect we agree on many, many things. But I do think we’re in danger of going around in circles.

    I think I do pretty well understand your position. Actually, I understood it from the beginning, because it used to be mine. But I wanted to put it clearly, side by side with mine, so the differences are obvious.

    I do appeal to Scripture. You do not. If you do not accept any of my Scriptural appeals as being well-grounded, then you would certainly not moderate your position. I believe the doctrines I’ve cited are sound. Specific applications of those doctrines to this question can be difficult. I recognise that. But at least I’m attempting to look at this question in the light of what Scripture says.

    Modern textual criticism doesn’t do that. And to return to the very original subject of this post, that plays right into the hands of people like Ruckman and Riplinger. They are citing Scripture. And few committed Christians are going to be prepared to accept that the Scriptures have absolutely nothing to give any help at all about how we can know what is the true text, and that the vast majority of experts on what is the true text are unbelievers. Most Christians will kind of scratch their head on that and say, “Huh? Does not compute. I don’t think that’s quite right.” If we left it to people who hold your position to counteract them, all we’d have is experts and manuscripts, etc. And if the only person who is citing Scripture is in error, we’ve got a mess.

    Anyway, we both have things to do. You have manuscripts to collate. I’ve got a different task — Scripture booklets and Gospel leaflets to distribute, a church to pastor, a job to pay the bills. It’s time to get back to work.

    Thanks again for the discussion. I’ll have one more comment for Fred.

  4. Fred, part of my reply to Darrell goes to you. You’d do better to refute Ruckman & Riplinger with Scripture. Whatever one may think of their followers, that is the only thing they will accept.

    They set the agenda when it comes to Scripture, not you. In your anti-KJVO articles, you only cite Scripture in two ways. One is to point out what you believe are errors in the translation of the KJV. The other is to respond to Scriptures that they have cited to dispute their exegesis.

    If the Scriptures are sufficient for doctrine, they are sufficient to refute Ruckman’s doctrine, but you never use them to do so. You use other arguments. You never show why he is contradicting the Scripture. I wish you’d use Scripture.

    Scripture refutes Ruckman’s double inspiration view. http://mindrenewers.com/2012/11/01/bible-translation-tongues-translationism-evaluated/.

    It refutes the “only one way to translate” fallacy, which is the pillar of most forms of KJVO. http://mindrenewers.com/2012/11/08/bible-translation-the-only-one-way-to-translate-fallacy/.

    If you want to preach to the choir, those who already agree with you, well, you are doing fine. But if you actually want to have an impact on those who disagree, using Scripture can be quite helpful. There’s that whole thing in Hebrews 4 about how it affects the heart. It is somewhat more powerful than most of our own arguments, if we’ll just use it.

    Thanks for patiently hosting my discussion with Darrell. We’re both rather wordy, must have been a chore to moderate. :)

  5. Jon: “We can start with Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, which Jewish Christians would certainly have applied to New Testament Scriptures as well”

    I already dealt with Duet 4:2, which deals with God warning Israel not to add any commandments to those He gave, nor subtract from any which He gave. It would not have been taken by the original readers in the OT or applied by the NT readers as a warning to not make mistakes as they copied the text. 12:32 is of a similar nature. “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” Again this talking about treasuring, obeying God’s commands, not being careful to make accurate copies of manuscripts.

    Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
    Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.

    Again, this is a similar point the writer is making. We dare not add to what God has commanded, this has nothing to do with the copying of manuscripts. It has to do with coming up with man-made commands and declaring them to being the commands of God. This doesn’t even necessarily involve someone writing up a command of God and trying to pass it off as Scripture. But of all the textual variants out there, I cannot think of one where someone was copying the Scriptures and managed to introduce a new command of God.

    Revelation 22:18-19: For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;
    and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    Again, I do not know of a textual variant that added new prophecies to the book of Revelation. No doubt there have been false teachers throughout the ages that have invented new teachings and burdened men with them…those people will bear the harvest of this injunction. But textual variants have not added new prophecies or eliminated prophecies from Revelation, or by extended implication, the rest of Scripture.

    2 Peter 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

    Again, this has to do with people twisting the truths of Scripture and enter the doors of heresy teaching things that are not taught in the Scriptures. The existing variations in manuscripts do not bear evidence of twisting into heresies.

    Jon: “Careful copying is also implicit in the words of Jesus that a jot or tittle will not pass from the Law, and that His words will stand forever”

    Jesus is teaching here that what the Scriptures said will happen, will all come to pass. Every bit of it. He is not talking about they copying of manuscripts.

    1 Corinthians 2:13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

    The Holy Spirit illumines the truths of the Scriptures to the believer, so spiritual things can be spiritually discerned. This has nothing to do with the copying of manuscripts.

    Jon: “We also know that awareness of scribal accuracy was present among early church leaders. Irenaeus had that famous passage where he challenged anyone who copied his own book to carefully check their work and correct any mistakes. Surely, if he saw the importance of careful copying for his own book, he would see its importance for Scripture.”

    Sure, I have never said that there wasn’t anybody who was concerned about getting copies right. Just like there are people today who are diligent and gifted, and others who are not, the same condition would have existed in history. Some would have been careful, others might not have been. Some people might have wanted to get it very right but simply had suspect linguistic skills and unknowingly made silly mistakes. They might have walked out of a house church with their own freshly minted copy thinking they got it all right, when in fact they made all sorts of mistakes.

    Jon: “And there really is a significant difference between the carelessness of extant early mss and most mss after the 4th/5th century. I’m not making this up, many textual scholars have said the same.”

    Again, as I have already pointed out, the Byzantine text-type wasn’t around in those early centuries, so it was there to interact with the errors introduced during that period. So it stands to reason the early errors were different than the errors committed later. Furthermore, many textual scholars rightly point out that once Christianity was legalized, better, and more professional copying was done so that the sort of errors present in the earlier manuscripts were diminished.

    Jon: “Finally (for this reply), I’ve never disputed that most major variants were very early. That does not in the least prove that all or most early scribes were careless”

    Again, the word ‘careless’ suggests a lack of piety, but as I keep stressing, we don’t know the attitudes of the copyists. They have been the most pious of saints thinking they were doing the best quality work, but due to their true lack of skill introduced all sorts of mistakes.

    So in the end, there are no Scriptures that tell NT Christians to be watchful as they copy the Scriptures. To set aside time for the elders to do the work and to check each others work until the going down of the sun. No warnings that only those in church leadership qualify to copy and only if they are expert in the language, and only if they have Jewish precision. Nothing about how to correct variants.

    And again, I stress that the Byzantine era of copying was also fraught with errors. I have seen them in every Byzantine manuscript I have ever worked on. Again I point out GA2907 which included some variants known only to exist in the 5th century majuscule D. The Byzantine text has been shown to break down into separate sub-families, with many manuscripts showing cross-over readings into other manuscripts including readings that go back into both Alexandrian and Western texts. If one’s aim is to find a pure text, then there is no fortress to run to in the Byzantine text-type. The same textual-critical work needs to be done on the Byzantines. Once all that work is done, I do believe there will be more Byzantine readings that will get strong consideration. But the work will also show the tremendous variety within this family of manuscripts.

  6. I have only a little time today, so I won’t be able to respond to everything that I wish to…just will respond to a few:

    Jon: “You argue that nothing I say can be tested any more than your theories. I agree. Where we disagree is whether Scripture has anything to say on this issue. I don’t have to test Scripture, if it speaks to this. I just have to appeal to Scripture.”

    But you wrongly appeal to the Scriptures, and twist more out of them than they say. And even if there were copyists who understood the scriptures with the interpretation you assign to those verses it doesn’t mean those copyists were sound linguists who would even be aware of their mistakes.

    Jon: “It cannot be relied upon with one particular person or manuscript, but as an aspect of God’s providential preservation of the true text, we should doubt any reading which has never, as far as we know, had wide acceptance among God’s people.”

    Again, I point out that church history shows that its a moving target. The body of manuscripts available to the church at any given time in church history is different. And even those available were not necessarily available to the entire church in all regions of the known world. Whenever I hear the “wide acceptance among God’s people” argument, I immediately want to know which people, living where, and when were they living. Of course one of the principles of textual criticism is to give weight to readings that are represented in a wide geographic distribution. This principle does have a few weaknesses, but if an early reading was widely represented in the Alexandrian text, Western, as well as all early versions, then it shows it was likely well attested as accepted by God’s people in that time, in all those various locations. Later witnesses might well counter that early reading with a variant reading. Does that invalidate the widespread acceptance among God’s people from the earlier period? No. Does it help the case for the later reading if 500 copies were made of it and those 500 all survived? No.

    Jon: “I believe this is EXACTLY paralleled in the work of the Spirit in attesting the canon. If it is theologically sound to accept the attesting work of the Spirit to the canon, it is not aberrant to suggest it applies to questions of the text.”

    So you find something that you believe to be an illustration (HS preservation work and HS Canon work) and then you say the one applies to the other. It is a jump. A leap. Canonicity relates to the attestation of which books are Scripture and which are not. It is aberrant to suggest that this extends to guiding believers to know which textual variants are true and which are false. The history of the church is full of textual critics who would mark up previously copied texts with readings they felt were more accurate. But who was right? The original copyist or the later corrector? Was the Holy Spirit guiding one but not the other? It is absurd to get into that debate and try to figure out which one was led by the Spirit and which one wasn’t. The better debate is to evaluate the merits of each reading and propose the case for one reading over the other on it’s merits.

    Jon: “On trusting in men, I believe (though you don’t recognise it) that your trust is in men — in the copyists, the people who stored the mss, the scholars who formulated the theories by which you evaluate mss, the scholars who apply those theories and make (often subjective) decisions as to which reading will be used in newly translated Bibles.”

    Whatever manuscripts you feel best represent the original manuscripts were also copied by men, stored by men, produced by scholars who had their own theories by which to evaluate the exemplars they copied from, and who had to often make subjective decisions as to which readings to follow. No two copies of any manuscripts are the same. You arbitrarily bring in the Holy Spirit as trump card for the manuscripts and the men who copied them–but limit that to only the manuscripts you feel were so attested by the Spirit.

    Furthermore, I don’t have to blindly follow whatever the UBS/NA editors place into their text. I have the freedom to evaluate the data in the apparatus and make my own conclusions.

    Jon: “The textual critic produces a work of uncertainty about the text. The Bible describes a text of absolute certainty, it never says anything that suggests there will be this kind of uncertainty. And so the Scriptures themselves indicate that there is something amiss. They may not give as explicit a way to approach the mss question as we would like, but they certainly indicate something wrong with the typical approach of textual scholars today.”

    But again, anyone in church history who ever picked up a pen and began to copy, and was aware of alternative readings and made a decision in their new copy, was at a minimal level, a textual critic. They were all through the Byzantine period as well, as evidenced by all the corrections written into the text as well as at least two periods of time when extensive work was done to try to clean up the variations in their texts. Why was their work of uncertainty better than today’s work of uncertainty? If the Bible describes a text of absolute certainty, then it failed early, and it failed often throughout the history of the transmission of the text. But the Bible does not describe a text of absolute certainty or uncertainty. It is silent in matters of copying written texts. The verses you have proposed were lifted from their contexts and more meaning was drawn out of them than was put into them. The Scriptures indicate there is something amiss? What is something referring to here? Are you really saying that the Scriptures tell us something is wrong with the current approach to resolving textual problems today? The method today is simply put. 1) None of the originals exist, 2) All of the copies have differences. 3) Lets sit down and very carefully study all of the variant readings. Because the Word of God is of upmost importance, we must expend every effort to a) catalog all the possible readings, b) propose from the evidence the best possible reading, while c) inform the readers that other readings are possible. That is exactly what is done with the critical text. The Scriptures are too important to exchange that approach for pulling a supposed ecclesiastical text from a single period of church history, even though that particular period also has all sorts of copying errors.

    Jon: “I do appeal to Scripture. You do not. If you do not accept any of my Scriptural appeals as being well-grounded, then you would certainly not moderate your position. I believe the doctrines I’ve cited are sound. Specific applications of those doctrines to this question can be difficult. I recognise that. But at least I’m attempting to look at this question in the light of what Scripture says.”

    I have already stated that I believe you are wrongly appealing to Scripture. You squeeze more out of specific verses than went into them. Even if some copyists came up with your interpretation, it wouldn’t have prevented them from making errors. If the Scriptures spoke to the issues of copying manuscripts and evaluating differences, I would gladly submit myself to the obedience of the Scriptures. I too am attempting to look at these questions in the light of what Scriptures says, but I dare not draw more from the Text than what it says.

    Jon: “Modern textual criticism doesn’t do that.

    And neither does textual criticism in the dark ages.

    Jon: “And few committed Christians are going to be prepared to accept that the Scriptures have absolutely nothing to give any help at all about how we can know what is the true text, and that the vast majority of experts on what is the true text are unbelievers.”

    But your way, and your usage of Scripture doesn’t get us any closer to the true text either. All it essentially does is limit the database of information to consider to one (also flawed) set of data from one period of church history. And committed Christians will not draw out of those verses more than the Author put into them. But again, even if those Scriptures can be understood in the way you have presented, they still don’t tell us which readings should be preferred. It is still your supposition that attestation of readings is guided by the Holy Spirit, but again, which readings, where, when? There is no control here to suggest when the HS gives a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Maybe if the Holy Spirit had worked in such a way that true copies were in brown ink and bad ones in black ink. I know I am being silly here, but what I am saying is that your approach just shoves the problems into a smaller corner, that’s it. And most committed Christians, as I am sure you might be aware, do not hold to your view. I can see it also irks you that unbelievers are involved in this. But again, we have the data. We don’t have to robotically follow what any one textual critic suggests. We can arrive at our own conclusions.

    Jon: “Most Christians will kind of scratch their head on that and say, “Huh? Does not compute. I don’t think that’s quite right.” If we left it to people who hold your position to counteract them, all we’d have is experts and manuscripts, etc. And if the only person who is citing Scripture is in error, we’ve got a mess.”

    It is actually worse to wrongly cite Scripture than to cite no Scripture at all. I cannot in good conscience do what you do with those verses. I would rather have experts and manuscripts than not have them. Thankfully we do have quite a number of believers who are involved in this field. Sure there are some unbelievers. Even rascals up to no good. But we don’t have to listen to their conclusions. We can look at the data and arrive at our own.

    Jon: “Anyway, we both have things to do. You have manuscripts to collate. I’ve got a different task — Scripture booklets and Gospel leaflets to distribute, a church to pastor, a job to pay the bills. It’s time to get back to work.”

    I agree, and I wish you the best. The UK desperately needs the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and a spiritual awakening. I pray that God would use you as a tool to see this work accomplished.

  7. Jon: “You’d do better to refute Ruckman & Riplinger with Scripture. Whatever one may think of their followers, that is the only thing they will accept.”

    They won’t accept anything. The case against them has been made over and over, and they are tone deaf. But worse than trying to refute them with Scripture is refuting them by twisting Scripture. That would be attempting to beat them at their own game. Riplinger and Ruckman are constantly twisting Scriptures, and so they are self-refuting. It is a waste of time to point this out to them because they won’t listen.

  8. One wonders, if a person does not believe that the Scriptures require us to be careful with the very words of Scripture, why that person would get involved in collating manuscripts at all. Why does it even matter to you?

  9. Because I am bound to obey what the Scriptures actually say, not what I want them to say. They say that I cannot introduce new commands of God or deny commands of God. They say nothing about strategies for copying manuscripts or evaluating differences.

  10. Hi Jon, I wasn’t thinking about your links when I commented above. I should have explained more. I didn’t click on your links nor evaluate the exegesis you did on any of verses you sited within those links. I was just speaking in general that there could be a temptation to jump into the pit with Ruckman and Riplinger and start flinging verses back at them that are taken out of context just as badly as theirs that propose a KJVO view. The burden is on Ruckman and Riplinger to show from the Scriptures why the KJV is the only true Bible. The burden is not on us to show them from the Scriptures why the KJV is not the only true Bible. They have not made that case, they have instead twisted Scripture, so they are self-refuting.

  11. Darrell, your treatment of those Scriptures is pathetic. The Scripture is full of direct statements and allusions to the importance of the very words of God.

    Jeremiah 26:2 “Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD’S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:”

    You now effectually deny verbal inspiration (whether you say you affirm it or not). Anyone who believes they are the very words of God would recognise the duty to copy carefully.

    But if you were right about every one of those verses and there are no Scriptures telling us to be watchful, then there is no reason for textual criticism. None.

    You say the Bible doesn’t tell us to care about words, only about whether commandments are added or not. You also said, “But of all the textual variants out there, I cannot think of one where someone was copying the Scriptures and managed to introduce a new command of God.”

    So according to you, variants don’t add commands, and adding commands is the only problem God cares about, also according to you. In that case, you are wasting your time working on textual criticism, and if your time belongs to the Lord, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    Anyway, now you effectually deny verbal inspiration, matching your effectual denial of sufficiency. You denied the attesting work of the Spirit completely until I mentioned the canon. Then, you had a problem, and acknowledged it works on a macro scale (to recognise the canon) but not a micro scale (to recognise words). You gave no Scriptural basis for limiting the attesting work to the macro, you just assert it, just like previously you were just asserting that there was no such work, just like you ludicrously assert that none of the verses I cited have anything to do with being careful with the very words of Scripture.

    You give no Scripture, no sound hermeneutical basis, for these assertions, you just give them. You don’t have Scripture at all. No Scriptural basis for what you do, none to support even the idea of determining the true text. None to support the methods and theories you use. None to say why it matters. None to provide the least support for any aspect of textual criticism.

    Your only use of Scripture in this entire thread is to refer to passages which have variants, and to respond to verses I’ve cited which you think I’m taking wrong, though without any real reason why your interpretation is better. The closest you’ve come to a reason is saying the original readers of Deuteronomy would not have taken it to mean being careful with the words. You don’t say why you think that, and the Jewish caution with manuscript accuracy gives the lie to it.

    But you do know a lot about the current state of New Testament textual criticism, you are quite representative of it. It’s just that the whole edifice is Scripturally bankrupt. It has no Scripture. Nothing.

    And we are supposed to believe that this is the way God wants us to know the true text of His Word.

  12. Jon: “Darrell, your treatment of those Scriptures is pathetic. The Scripture is full of direct statements and allusions to the importance of the very words of God.”

    No, my treatment is accurate, and I submit that your treatment is eisegesis. I never said the Word of God isn’t important. It is of ultimate importance. It’s the truth of what God says that saves souls. But its wrong to deduce that everyone throughout church history would have gleaned from those texts the same high degree of piety for copying manuscripts or evaluating variants. They wouldn’t have gleaned it from those texts because they would have picked up on the authorial intent of those texts, which is to take very seriously the truth of the message that God has for them. Some might have taken seriously the copying and translating of the text, others would not have. The same as what we see in the LXX translation of the Hebrew OT–it shows that perfect accuracy frequently was not realized.

    Jeremiah 26:2 “Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD’S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word:”

    To this verse I say Amen and Amen! YHWH said to Jeremiah at the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim to stand in the court of YHWH’s house and to speak to them all the words I command you to speak to them, and to not diminish a word. So then starting in verse 4, YHWH tells Jeremiah exactly what to say, so Jeremiah then said it. Jeremiah did not diminish what God had for them. This has nothing to do with the copying of manuscripts or strategies for dealing with variants. It has to do with YHWH warning Jeremiah to deliver exactly the message He wants delivered to their ears. That is the authorial intent. Saying the authorial intent was giving principles for copying manuscripts and dealing with variants is not correct.

    Jon: “You now effectually deny verbal inspiration (whether you say you affirm it or not). Anyone who believes they are the very words of God would recognise the duty to copy carefully.”

    Verbal inspiration has to do with God breathing Scripture. It is tied directly to the original autographs. After those originals were written, any copy thereafter was only a copy, and a potentially flawed copy of the inspired originals. That is the orthodox view. While it is true apparently that I deny your unbiblical view of inspiration, I do strongly affirm the Scriptural view of Inspiration. Anyone who believes that the Scriptures are the very word of God may have set out to carefully copy, but such a desire wouldn’t necessarily made them a good linguist. They might have even thought they were doing a good job when they weren’t. History shows it. Many mistakes were made in the early centuries, and there were a lot of mistakes during the dark ages. So you have built your view on the speculation of what believers must have recognized as a duty, and that such piety would automatically make them good linguists. I grant that some would have tried their hardest, but it is clear that others didn’t. I have worked on many Byzantine manuscripts and found the silliest of mistakes that anyone taking care to check their work would have found and corrected. Where was their sense of duty?

    Jon: “But if you were right about every one of those verses and there are no Scriptures telling us to be watchful, then there is no reason for textual criticism. None.”

    I don’t know why you would say this. Whether or not copyists felt they were being watchful, they made mistakes. It is part of the human condition. It is abundantly clear from manuscript evidence…ALL manuscripts, Byzantines included, that greater checking, proofing, and cross-checking could have been done, but wasn’t. So regardless the interpretation of the verses you raised, there is a tremendous need for textual criticism. 1) The inspired originals do not exist, 2) All copies have differences, 3) so every effort must be made to locate and analyze all of the evidence, 4) toward the goal of producing the most accurate text, while 5) notes are provided showing other possible readings. Anything short of these 5 steps will result in the church using an inferior text.

    Jon: “So according to you, variants don’t add commands, and adding commands is the only problem God cares about, also according to you. In that case, you are wasting your time working on textual criticism, and if your time belongs to the Lord, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

    Trying to follow you here. God wants obedience to his commands. Had His will been that we today would have perfectly preserved copies of the originals, then we would have them. But we don’t. Because we don’t, then my time studying manuscripts is not at all wasted, but time given to God in worship.

    Jon: “Anyway, now you effectually deny verbal inspiration, matching your effectual denial of sufficiency.”

    No Jon, I deny your unbiblical view of verbal inspiration. I affirm that God inspired what the human authors wrote on those original autographs. I fully affirm the Biblical understanding of sufficiency, and I deny your unbiblical view of sufficiency. As I said earlier, the theological truth of sufficiency actually undermines what you are trying to argue. Had God felt it necessary for us, He could have given Scripture with guidelines to follow for how to copy manuscripts, restrictions on who could do it, and steps for how to cross-check the work. But the sufficient Scriptures do not have those verses, which undercuts your view. You are trying to make more of this than God did.

    Jon: “You denied the attesting work of the Spirit completely until I mentioned the canon.”

    Again, for the umpteenth time, the canon has nothing to do with copying manuscripts and evaluation of differences.

    Jon: “Then, you had a problem, and acknowledged it works on a macro scale (to recognise the canon) but not a micro scale (to recognise words).”

    No, I didn’t have a problem. You are the one trying setup a false connection between the Canon and copying of manuscripts.

    Jon: “You gave no Scriptural basis for limiting the attesting work to the macro, you just assert it, just like previously you were just asserting that there was no such work, just like you ludicrously assert that none of the verses I cited have anything to do with being careful with the very words of Scripture.”

    No, Jon, its up to you to make your case, not up to me to deny your case. You didn’t make your case. You have no verses that affirm such work of the Spirit. The Spirit illumines the truth of the Scripture to the believer because these truths are spiritually discerned. There is nothing at all in the Scriptures that tell the Spirit keeps Christians from making mistakes when they copy, or keeps Christians from forgetting to have their copies checked, or tells Christians how to evaluate differences in existing copies, or how to tell which variant readings are correct and which are not correct.

    Jon: “You give no Scripture, no sound hermeneutical basis, for these assertions, you just give them. You don’t have Scripture at all. No Scriptural basis for what you do, none to support even the idea of determining the true text. None to support the methods and theories you use. None to say why it matters. None to provide the least support for any aspect of textual criticism.”

    And you twist Scripture, drawing out more than the authorial intent put into them. Your Scriptural basis is a false one. Its what you want the Scriptures to say even though they don’t really say it. You don’t have any truly Scriptural basis for determining the true text either. Your methods and theories, whatever they are would not produce a better, more accurate text than what is currently available via the current NA28 edition. They provide the alternative readings in the apparatus, so the reader can make up his own mine. In the end, it appears you have no sound solution to the problem that 1) the originals no longer exist, and 2) all existing copies are different. You have to engage in the linguistic discipline of textual criticism to address this problem, just like the church has done throughout the centuries.

    Jon: “Your only use of Scripture in this entire thread is to refer to passages which have variants, and to respond to verses I’ve cited which you think I’m taking wrong, though without any real reason why your interpretation is better.”

    Again, if there was a verse talking about how to copy manuscripts, who is qualified to do that work, steps to take, pitfalls to avoid, how to cross-check work, how to deal with variants, I would be ALL OVER IT. But I will not partake in the charade of drawing out meanings from verses that the original readers would not have drawn and what the author never intended. I love the Scriptures, and I love studying the Scriptures, but can you see how foolish it sounds for you to keep demanding verses out of me when I keep saying that the sufficient Scriptures are silent on these matters?

    Jon: “The closest you’ve come to a reason is saying the original readers of Deuteronomy would not have taken it to mean being careful with the words. You don’t say why you think that, and the Jewish caution with manuscript accuracy gives the lie to it.”

    Jewish caution again? I presume you are aware that the OT has textual critical problems as well.

    Jon: “But you do know a lot about the current state of New Testament textual criticism, you are quite representative of it. It’s just that the whole edifice is Scripturally bankrupt. It has no Scripture. Nothing.”

    And yours has no Scripture either. You have no Scripture to address the problem of 1) The originals are gone, 2) All copies have differences.

    You appeal so hard that Christians would have understood the importance of God’s Word and would have wanted to get it right. Well here I am, wanting to get it right…as is Peter Head at Tyndale House, and Tommy Wasserman, and a bunch of other evangelical New Testament textual critics, and you do nothing but pile on scorn and mockery. Sure I wish that better care had been taken with the NT. But it isn’t what God had planned for us. And we are trying to reverse the entropy that human hands did to the New Testament, and you want to stop us, and offer no solution in its place.

    Jon: “And we are supposed to believe that this is the way God wants us to know the true text of His Word.”

    And your gnostic way is supposed be better? We are supposed to trust that the Holy Spirit led some people to make the right textual critical choices in some places, in some manuscripts, at some points in time in church history? And that by the same work of the Holy Spirit we will identify which scribes got it right and which got it wrong? And because we know that no one copy got everything right, we conclude that the Spirit guided them on some verses but let them down on others?

  13. Hey fellas,
    I appreciate the going back and forth on this subject. I personally benefited from the exchange, but it may be that you two may have exhausted this subject. We are probably the only three folks looking at it. I’d encourage you both to maybe write up something final and have your last words.

    As to the reason why I don’t necessarily address Ruckman and Riplinger directly with the Scripture, they represent something of a fringe even among the most adamant adherents to KJV onlyism. I try to keep my focus on the overall KJVO apologetic that I personally have witnessed in church and on the internet.

  14. Thanks, Fred. I’ll wrap with this.

    VERBAL INSPIRATION / ACCURACY OF EARLY COPYISTS
    Every word of Scripture is important. God told Jeremiah that every word of his prophecy was to be repeated. He told Israel, through Moses, not to add or delete words. The same instruction is in Proverbs, in Revelation, and implied by references to every jot and tittle and the way Jesus and NT writers used the OT, sometimes even building an argument on a single word. Verbal inspiration, the belief that every word came from God and is exactly the word God wanted in His Word, is clearly taught in Scripture.

    Anyone who believes in verbal inspiration believes that every word matters. They are God’s words. Anyone who believes this would believe that accuracy in copying was important. Early believers would have seen this in Scripture, too. Early believers believed in verbal inspiration. Any copyist who decided to just leave out or add words would be in blatant violation of the teaching of Deuteronomy 4, Proverbs 30, and Revelation 22. Any copyist who decided it was unnecessary to check to see if they had copied accurately would be in, at least, negligent violation of those same passages. Both would be in violation of the obvious implication of verbal inspiration.

    The early church was a severely persecuted church. It was full of people who were in danger of their life for their faith. It is not reasonable to assume that such people would be casual about the Word, that they would not believe in verbal inspiration, that they would not think that the individual words were important, and that they would be careless in their copying. It is true that they may have had uneven skill, but the level of sloppiness in the extant early manuscripts is beyond a question of skill. E.C. Colwell spoke of the scribe of P66 not even trying to make a good copy.

    It is not reasonable to assume that all or even most early copyists did not care about accuracy. This theory, as far as I know, was first propounded by Hort and has been followed by most textual critics since. It flies in the face of a Biblical view that the canon was accepted early and widely and that every word of Scripture matters. Hort justified it by denying the Biblical teaching of the acceptance of the canon. Darrell apparently justifies it by denying that early believers had a Biblical view of verbal inspiration.

    Any text-critical view that assumes all or most early copyists were careless is very suspect theologically.

    ATTESTING WORK OF THE SPIRIT
    The Scriptures clearly teach that the Holy Spirit attests to the truth in the heart of believers. I cited many Scriptures on this, both in this thread and in one of the articles I linked to above. This is widely accepted as a foundational truth in a Biblical view of the canon. The canon of Scripture was not defined by church councils. Church councils acknowledged what had been attested to by the Spirit in the hearts of believers. The doctrine of the attesting work of the Spirit to the Word of God is orthodox.

    Furthermore, every believer has experienced it, where we have heard something, perhaps we have never heard it before, but which we immediately know to be true and Biblical, even if we have not yet studied the Scriptures to see whether those things are so. (This does not remove the requirement to search the Scriptures, of course.)

    To ascertain the attesting work of the Spirit may be uneven and difficult at times. We see this in the canon, as not all believers were always agreed. This is not the fault of the Spirit, but of those who are disobedient, immature, deceived by erroneous teaching, or exalting themselves in some way. Nevertheless, this is how the Spirit chose to give us the canon of Scripture. Believers read the words of the different books and knew, “This is God’s Word, it is inspired.” Any book that was not widely accepted was known to lack the attesting work of the Spirit, and was not accepted as canonical. It was not enough for a few people, or a few churches, to say, “This is Scripture.” It had to be widely accepted.

    If God promised to preserve His Word, and He did, and the primary means of preservation was through the copying of His Word by believers (and it was), the attesting work of the Spirit was an aspect of His providential preservation by which believers, when confronted with a choice between two readings, would recognise the true reading and copy it. As with canonicity, this was uneven, for the same reasons. There is certainly no guarantee that the majority will be correct. Yet, it is not enough for a few people, only one or two manuscripts, to say, “This is Scripture,” for if there are only a few, the attesting work of the Spirit has not been present.

    Any text-critical view that assumes it is possible for the original reading to be lightly attested is theologically flawed.

    THE UNIQUENESS OF SCRIPTURE
    The Scriptures are unlike any other book, not just in their origin, but in their nature. The Bible is a living and life-giving Book. God promised to preserve it. Satan hates it and would love to suppress and destroy it. No other book has this dynamic. There are supernatural / spiritual forces at work here. We have no knowledge of (or expectation of) supernatural intervention since the NT, but a sovereign God will intervene in many ways to accomplish His will.

    We should therefore not necessarily expect the transmission of the Scriptures through the ages to be like any other book. Just because we don’t know all the ways in which God is providentially working does not mean He has not been working in unexpected ways. We should be hesitant to assume the normal “rules” apply.

    This is even more so when we recognise that manuscripts of other books were most often owned by the wealthy, while manuscripts of the Bible were most often owned by believers, who did not tend to be rich (James 2). Bible manuscripts were rarely kept in safe libraries, at least before the time of Constantine. They were probably rarely copied by paid scribes (trying to hire a scribe to do this would be a good way to get arrested, perhaps), but often by people who worked out of love and dedication to the task. Other books would typically be read by their owners infrequently. Bible manuscripts would be read by their owners all the time, perhaps every day. Exactly how these differences would manifest themselves in the manuscript evidence may be debated, but it is ludicrous to think that they would have no impact.

    Furthermore, the manuscript evidence fully bears out the uniqueness of the transmission of this Book, in the sheer number of manuscripts, in the broad diversity of early versions, in the citations in extant early writings, in the geographical spread, and in the number of extant mss in relatively close chronological proximity to the autographs. The earliest manuscript of the Iliad (the next best-attested ancient book) came 500 years after Homer. Every manuscript of the New Testament earlier than the mid-sixth century screams, “This Book is different.” Furthermore, for all that has been said about sloppy copies in this thread, as a whole, the NT manuscripts are in remarkable agreement with each other compared to other ancient books. There is just no comparison.

    For these reasons, any view that the textual transmission of the Bible is the same as other books, and thus the rules for textual criticism are the same, is highly dubious. Every “rule” is subject to re-examination in light of the uniqueness of this particular Book.

    LECTIO BREVIOR PRAEFERENDA EXAMINED
    This is one of the key rules of modern critical approaches, that the shorter reading is to be preferred. The Scripture warns equally against adding to or taking from the Word. The theory that scribes would, out of reverence, conflate texts when they had conflicting exemplars, flies in the face of this. Believing scribes would not want to leave out words, but neither would they want to add words.

    Any text-critical view built on the theory of intentional reverential conflations is highly dubious given the clear warnings of Scripture. This is true of any supposed intentional “reverential” lengthening of the text. In the light of Scripture there is

    LECTIO DIFFICILIO POTIOR EXAMINED
    This is another bedrock rule of modern critical theory. It says that the most difficult reading is stronger.

    The Unity of Scripture calls this into question. The Book is one Book, fitting together, with one Author. If one reading clearly fits well with the message of Scripture and the other is more difficult, the latter is at least as possible to be a corruption as the first.

    It is certainly possible that an easier reading could have taken place by inadvertent assimilation by the scribe to another text. However, a difficult reading would catch the attention of the scribe and inadvertent changes are less likely in difficult readings.

    Most textual scholars support this “rule” by arguing for intentional reverential changes, where the scribe encounters a difficult reading and says, “That can’t be right,” and changes it to match another Scripture text. For reasons cited above, intentional reverential changes would generally have been rare. A scribe with two conflicting exemplars might have chosen the one with the least difficult reading, but would be unlikely to manufacture a less difficult reading from thin air.

    In the light of Scripture there is no particular reason to assume that a more difficult reading is either more or less likely to be original.

    I could say more about other text-critical assumptions/rules, but I’ll close with this.

    THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE
    Scripture declares its own sufficiency for all matters of doctrine. It does not guarantee to spell everything out for us, but it will certainly give us guidance on everything we need to know. If we need to know the very words of Scripture, it will certainly tell us something about how we can know what they are.

    Darrell cannot even provide a Scriptural reason to do textual criticism. If Scripture does not tell him that copying the words accurately is important, then it likewise does not tell him that figuring out which copies are accurate is important. In this he is not completely representative, there are those involved in textual criticism, like my old professor, who do believe that the Scripture requires care with its very words, and thus provides a basis for wanting to know the true text.

    But no advocates of a primarily Alexandrian-based critical text OR of a more eclectic text have any Scriptural basis for their methods or their theories. In fact, they adamantly refuse to even consider whether Scriptural principles should modify them. If they acknowledge the authority of Scripture (most don’t), they say, as Darrell does, that Scripture says nothing at all about the question. Thus, for the vital question of how we even know which words are Scripture, the Scriptures are not sufficient.

    But the Scriptures are sufficient. There are doctrines that we can and should apply to this question. Exactly how to apply them in every instance can be difficult — thus, some who apply them may end up with a majority text position, while others end up with a modified majority text position, or a TR / modified TR position, or some could move a little more eclectic, emphasising breadth of geographical attestation as evidence of the Spirit’s attestation.

    I can respect differing views as to how the doctrines should be applied to these questions. But to simply throw them away as irrelevant and give no Scriptural basis for what you are doing is a denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.

    Fred, thanks again for hosting this.

  15. Pingback: Answering the Claims of KJV-Onlyism | hipandthigh

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